Queen of the May, 1875. Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879). Albumen print from wet collodion negative; image: 34.9 x 26.6 cm (13 3/4 x 10 1/2 in.); matted: 66 x 55.9 cm (26 x 22 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 1984.166
A major figure in the development of British photography, Cameron elevated the portrait to new artistic heights. She never opened a commercial studio or accepted commissions, but she was one of the first photographers to sell her photographs through a fine art gallery. Friends, neighbors, family, and servants were cajoled into modeling for portraits as themselves and as allegorical figures from history, religion, mythology, and literature. Little is known about Emily Peacock, who posed here as the protagonist in The May Queen by Britain’s poet laureate Alfred Tennyson. Typically crowned with flowers, the May Queen is selected as part of the celebrations on May 1, a traditional spring holiday in many cultures in the Northern Hemisphere.